Hutchinson Community College’s women completed their undefeated march through Region VI, but not without some anxious moments Tuesday night.
The Blue Dragons (33-0) went scoreless for the final three minutes but their defense did just enough to hold off Independence 43-41. The victory advances Hutch to the NJCAA Tournament that begins next week in Salina. A year ago, Hutch entered the final 30-1 and dropped the title game to Cloud County 46-45.
Hutch coach John Ontjes said the disappointment of losing the title game a year ago helped motivate his team.
“I just think our group was so focused to reach this goal,” he said. “We had five kids that played in this game last year, and they were just very determined – not only those kids, but the whole team.”
Hutch sophomore post player Jackie Patterson scored just nine points but pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds and was the tournament’s most valuable player.
Patterson said she was thrilled by the undefeated league season.
“It feels very good,” she said. “I knew we had it in us, we just had to get out here and prove it, and we finally did.”
Hutch had to sweat out a furious Pirates comeback from a 35-27 deficit with 11:10 to play.
With 1:30 to play, Independence’s Diara Moore was fouled attempting a three-pointer and made all three free throws.
When Moore sank two more free throws with 1:04 to play, the Hutch lead was cut to two. The Blue Dragons called a couple of timeouts, missed but corralled the rebound. After another Blue Dragon miss, the Pirates rebounded and called timeout to set up their final shot with 9.1 seconds left.
Indy set up Moore for the shot, but her attempt from well beyond the three-point line bounced away as the buzzer sounded and the Blue Dragon players began their celebration.
The cold shooting night – Hutch shot just 31 percent from the field – didn’t faze Patterson, she said.
“We weren’t shooting very well, but we were attacking the basket, so it made the game go much easier,” she said.
Defense was a key, Ontjes said.
“Both teams really battled hard defensively and didn’t have very many second-chance opportunities,” he said. “It was just a very difficult game to score in.”
As cold as Hutch was, Independence struggled more.
The Pirates hit just 26 percent of their shots (13 of 50), and only Dominique Mosley’s inside game kept the game close in the first half. In the second half, Moore’s shots began to fall, and she made seven of nine free throws in the period to keep the Pirates close.
Those final minutes were did provide some butterflies, Ontjes said.
“Any time you’re playing a game that has this type of finish, it’s nerve-racking,” he said. “It’s just because you want the kids to be successful. Things didn’t quite go our way there at the end, but luck was on our side.”
HUTCHINSON (31-0): Patrick 2-9 2-2 6, Small 6-9 1-1 14, Barlow 3-11 0-2 6, Lawrence 0-5 0-1 0, Jackie Patterson 3-8 3-3 9, Sorrells 0-3 0-0 0, Lee 2-4 2-2 6, Jasmine Patterson 1-6 0-0 2. Totals 17-55 8-11 43.
INDEPENDENCE (27-6): Curtis 1-10 0-0 2, Moore 3-11 8-11 17, Waldner 1-6 0-0 2, Anderson 2-9 2-2 6, Mosley 5-12 2-2 12, Carey 0-0 0-0 0, Ryce 0-0 0-0 0, Maxwell 0-0 0-0 0, McGrath 0-0 0-0 0, Thomas 0-1 0-0 0, Peterson 0-0 0-0 0, Riabenchenko 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 13-50 12-15 41.
Halftime—Hutchinson 22, Independence 18. Three-point shooting—Hutchinson 1-8 (Small 1-1, Patrick 0-4, Barlow 0-2, Lawrence 0-1); Independence 3-9 (Moore 3-8, Curtis 0-1). Rebounds— Hutchinson 37 (Jackie Patteron 10), Independence 40 (Mosley13). Assists—Hutchinson 12 (Patrick, Jackie Patterson 3), Independence 10 (Anderson 7). Total fouls—Hutchinson 11, Independence 12. Fouled out—None.